Is it just me, or does this Sunday’s Saints game against the Panthers suddenly seem like the game? National sports journalists are hyping the division match-up in the “surprisingly” talented NFC South. Panthers and Saints bloggers alike are buzzing, if not worried about the prospect of a team lost.
I for one have no intentions of losing my bet with the folks at Cat Crave, thereby being forced to write a list of the “Top Ten Things I Love About the Panthers.” (Ugh…I’d rather choke on a hairball.) But when it comes right down to it, isn’t this game just like most all the others we’ve had this season… that the Saints’ biggest opponent will be themselves?
Don’t get me wrong, I know what the “Ragin’ Cajun…Jake the Snake…Phone Home Delhomme” is capable of. Even more, I know what Steve “Mama Said Knock You Out” Smith has accomplished in the past against our secondary. But for some reason, despite their 4-2 record, I’m still not convinced about the Panthers.
Maybe I’m underestimating them, which is fine for me to do as I’m neither a player nor a coach, but I’m not sold that their weapons come anywhere close to stacking up to ours. Sure they’ve beat some solid teams but they’ve also suffered some embarrassing losses, namely last week’s 27-3 ass tapping, courtesy of the Bucs.
So, let’s break down the match up shall we…without the national media pretense or the message board d-baggery the folk(s) at Moosedenied and I have come to know and loathe.
The Cat’s Meow
The Panthers boast a defense that currently ranks 3rd in the NFL. They’ve held their opponents on average to 16.4 points and under 265 yards of offense. Their specialty: shutting down the passing attack. This is something that makes Saints fans queasy considering the air assault is the focal point of our offense. But the Panthers also have yet to face one of the top 5 offenses in the league. Guess who’s in that number…
The Saints currently sit at number two offensively, ranked just behind the Super Bowl champion Giants. Our offense is also first in passing yards per game. And guess what else? Marques Colston, David Patten and Jeremy Shockey could all return to the field this Sunday, giving the ever awesome Drew Brees even more bulls-eyes to target.
Nervous as a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
News that Reggie Bush had to sit out of practice with knee swelling made the Chicks only mildly uneasy. Bush and Coach Sean Payton downplayed the injury and assured reporters #25 would suit up on Sunday. He sure as hell better!
Although Jason David showed signs of spunk and confidence against the Raiders, I can’t imagine a soul in black and gold not reaching for the Mylanta when Delhomme sends a spiral into the air in the direction of Muhsin Muhammad and #42. Let’s hope our defensive ends can continue to get pressure up front and force Jake to make some bad decisions.
Meanwhile, the Panthers are likely wondering which quarterback will show up on Sunday. Will it be the Jake who lead them to a last second victory over the Chargers in week 1 or the Jake who stunk up the place against the Bucs in week 6. Furthermore, what’s up with their sorry ass special teams? They’ve had 3 blocked punts so far this season! Those competitive bastards just couldn’t let ole Martin steal the glory as the NFC South’s special teams disaster.
There’s More Than One Way to Skin a Cat
While the pass offense is suspect, the Panthers have also gotta be shaking in their David Carr-esque mittens over their running game. They rank 19th in rushing, averaging 3.6 yards a carry, due largely to a banged up offensive line. So much for DeAngelo Williams bringing the pain.
Letting the Cat out of the Bag
In the end, this contest will come down to what the other games have: Can the Saints minimize their mistakes? You can’t turn the ball over in the red zone, miss field goals, false start every other play, and expect to win a game against a division rival. This game will be about the “3 big D’s”: Discipline, Defense, and DEUUUCCCCEEEEE!!! For all those calling it a must-win…simmer down. But when the kitty litter hits the fan this Sunday, odds are the Saints will be reclaiming their perch atop the NFC South.